Wherever you travel, please

Some sections of the Boardman River are gentle enough to paddle upstream without difficulty, others parts contain rapids or require a certain skill level to maneuver turns or obstacles. This page describes each section of the river and the recommended skill level. Keep in mind that float times can vary widely depending on the type of watercraft, seasonal water levels and how much paddling you do.

The best of the Boardman is the upper river which begins when 2 small streams, the north & south branches, converge near Supply Rd & Brown Bridge Rd, about 15 miles SE of TC. Here, the river is narrow, quick & shallow, averaging 15-20 feet wide and 2-4’ deep. The riverbanks are mostly forested with some open meadows and a few scattered cottages. The final couple miles of this part is quite open & the banks are filling in with new growth as the 'new' river flows through the former Brown Bridge Pond area.

The first public launch is adjacent to Forks State Forest Campground (skill level 1-2) - Less than a mile from Supply on Brown Bridge Rd. There is a platform launch, parking is somewhat disorganized & limited (only campers can park in the campground), vault toilet in season. About 4.5 river miles to Schecks (3.5 miles by dirt road, 2-3 hr float). (Ranch Rudolf is located between Forks & Schecks, but there is NO public exit or launch)

Schecks Place State Forest Campground (skill level 1-2) - located on the east side of Brown Bridge Rd, primitive launch, grass parking, vault toilet in season. About 4.5 river miles to Brown Bridge Landing (3.5 miles by dirt road, 2-3 hr float).

The middle Boardman is slightly wider with some deeper areas and a moderate-to-quick flow. There are more private homes and many bridges along the banks. Less forested and more open meadows with lots of wildlife, including birds, otter, beaver & more.

Brown Bridge Landing (skill level 2) - platform launch, dirt & grass parking, vault toilet in season, on Brown Bridge Rd just east of Garfield Rd. About 7 river miles to Shumskys (5 miles by paved & dirt road, 3 hours float).

Shumskys Landing (skill level 2) - Walk-in or primitive launch from the walled bank, dirt & grass parking, vault toilet in season, on Shumsky Rd off River Rd near Sleights Rd. It’s about 4.5 river miles to Beitner Park (3 miles by dirt & paved road, 2-3 hrs float).

The 7+ mile stretch from Beitner Park to the river's mouth on W Grand Traverse Bay is the lower Boardman. It begins with a mile of fast water including Keystone Rapids, but then it mellows completely below Sabin Dam and then empties into Boardman Lake (1+ mi long) and ends with an urban stretch through downtown Traverse City. There are 3 dams and a fish weir to contend with in addition to power boats near the mouth.

WARNING!: Parts of the lower Boardman River will face temporary closures (probably through Summer 2017) due to bridge & dam work; paddlers must exit the river before Lone Pine and can re-enter just below Sabin Dam.

Beitner Park - for experienced paddlers ONLY as there are rapids from here to Lone Pine! It is highly recommended that EVERYONE who plans to go through the Keystone Rapids walk the trail to Oleson Bridge before attempting (the trail begins across the street). Beitner Park has a platform launch at the bottom of a few steps, very limited, paved parking, vault toilet in season, on Beitner/Keystone Rd near River Rd.

Oleson Bridge - usual take-out for tubers running the rapids, good swimming, sandy launch/take-out, paved parking, on Keystone Rd near River Rd.

Lone Pine - due to bridge construction down river, ALL watercraft MUST exit the river here, walk-in/out only (and steep stairs), paved parking, on Keystone Rd near Hoch Rd.

Sabin Dam - very gentle flow, sandy, walk-in launch, paved & dirt parking, restrooms in the Nature Center & the picnic pavilion, on Cass Rd at the railroad tracks.

Boardman Valley Nature Preserve (old YMCA) - sandy swimming, paved parking, small wooden dock (behind tennis courts), restrooms inside the YMCA, on S Airport Rd at Logans Landing.

After passing through culverts under S Airport Rd, the river enters the approximately 2 mile long Boardman Lake. The lake is popular with many birds (& was once heavily lined with various industries) so it is not a swimming lake. It is popular with kayakers, fishermen and there's a sailing school at the north end, at Hull Park. The shore is somewhat undeveloped with parks at both ends and dotted with condos & a few business on the east & west sides. It can be difficult to paddle end-to-end when there is a N or NW wind, which is often.

Medalie Park - lots of birds, platform launch, paved parking, restrooms in the covered picnic pavilion, on S Airport Rd at Logans Landing.

Boardman Lake Trail at 12th St - new platform launch on the western shore, vault toilet in season, located at the east end of 12th St on the Boardman Lake Trail.

Hull Park - the river begins its urban section west of Hull Park, gentle flow, portage required at the Union St Dam. Dock & boat launch available, paved parking, restrooms, next to the Library near the corner of Woodmere & 8th St.

The Boardman becomes an urban river as it meanders through downtown Traverse City for nearly 1.5 miles. The river reforms at the north end of Boardman Lake, just west of Hull Park. The flow is quite slow and deeper than the upper river. It's about 30 minutes to the portage at the Union St Dam (between Cass Rd and Union St). Use extreme caution as you approach the dam and exit the river on the left. Walk up the little hill & re-launch on the other side of the dam.

The fish weir requires only lining up with the gates for easy passage.

View all sites on the Boardman River Recreation map.

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DISCLAIMER: Every effort is made to provide current & accurate information, however, it is for reference only & NOT guaranteed. Please follow the appropriate links to learn detailed information & current conditions. Please note that websites can and do change links often; thank you for reporting broken links. Questions and comments are always welcome.

All original photographs & text Copyright © 2016 @TheBoardman

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